The Pentagon isn't the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

The military isn’t the only one with special-operations units.

Numerous US government agencies and departments have specially selected, manned, and trained units with some unique mission sets. Because of the Posse Comitatus Act, which makes it almost impossible to use the active-duty military in a domestic scenario, some of these units are the last line of defense in their respective jurisdictions.

Here are the top 5:

Hostage Rescue Team (FBI)

HRT operators conducting close-quarters battle training. FBI

The HRT specializes on domestic counterterrorism and hostage rescue. It’s the law-enforcement equivalent of Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 and frequently trains with both units.

To apply for HRT, an FBI special agent must have served two to three years in a field office. To become an operator, he or she then must pass a grueling two-week selection and then a 32-week operator training course similar to Delta Force’s.

The HRT recruits heavily from the special-operations community. Former Navy SEALs, Delta Force operators, Rangers, and Pararescuemen are some of those recruited by the Bureau. Tom Norris, a Navy SEAL who won the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, was one of the first HRT operators despite missing an eye.

The unit is composed of about 100 operators and is split into two teams (Gold and Blue) that contain assault and sniper teams.

Aside from armored vehicles, the unit has its own helicopters and boats and frequently trains with the top military units, such as the Night Stalkers. HRT operators train in a variety of environments, including arctic, urban, and maritime and learn several infiltration methods such as free-fall parachuting and close-circuit diving.

HRT operators have deployed to the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan alongside Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces.

The HRT conducted successful hostage rescues in Alabama in 2013 and Atlanta in 2014. It also participated in the hunt for the Boston marathon bomber in 2013.

Maritime Security Response Teams (Coast Guard)

MSRT operators honing their marksmanship skills while underway. US Coast Guard

The MSRTs are Coast Guard’s elite. They specialize in maritime counterterrorism and high-risk maritime law enforcement. Like Navy SEALs, they also excel at Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) operations and often deploy outside the US.

The MSRT pipeline is almost 18 months and encompasses a variety of skills, including close-quarters battle, mission planning, fast-roping, and water survival.

Operators can then specialize in additional skills such as sniping, dog handling, and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High Yield Explosive (CBRNE) detection.

There are two teams, MSRT-West in California and MSRT-East in Virginia, totaling 300 operators.

The Coast Guard can be put under the control of the Department of the Navy during wartime, but in peacetime it is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

But MSRTs often deploy on and use Navy ships as platforms for their operations. If they have to do an interdiction in US waters, the Navy crew must raise the Coast Guard’s ensign, putting the ship under Coast Guard control for the duration of the operation in order to comply with the Posse Comitatus Act.

In the last six years, the MSRTs have deployed domestically and overseas in support of the military close to 200 times.

Special Response Teams (DEA)

DEA agents burning hashish seized in Operation Albatross, a joint Afghan, NATO, and DEA operation, in 2008. DEA

The SRTs are DEA’s dedicated teams to execute high-risk searches and arrest warrants.

DEA special agents who wish to join the SRTs have to pass a two-week training course that covers tactical entries, vehicle interdiction, emergency medical care, advanced weapons, defensive tactics, mission planning, and mechanical breaching.

Special agents on SRTs serve part-time while also fulfilling their normal duties. There are 20 SRTs across the US.

The unit has only been operational since January 2020, but it can trace its lineage to the Foreign-Deployed Advisory and Support Teams (FAST) that were deactivated a few years ago.

DEA special agents assigned to FAST teams deployed regularly in Central and Latin America as part of the war on drugs but also to Afghanistan to counter the drug trade that fuels the Taliban war machine.

While in Afghanistan, the FAST teams developed a close working relationship with the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) and 2nd Commando Regiment.

Special Response Teams (Department of Energy)

Security contractors at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site. Department of Energy

These are the men who defend America’s nuclear sites. Only contractors serve in the SRTs, and to join one has to pass a tactical response certification course.

The course teaches skills required to perform the high-risk recapture, recovery, and pursuit operations of nuclear material and to support interruption, interdiction, neutralization, containment, and denial strategies.

Contractors also go through marksmanship training, team tactical urban movement, and breaching, fieldcraft, close-quarters combat, and night operations.

The SRTs are also capable of dealing with active shooter or hostage situations involving Department of Energy sites and facilities.

The unit was established in 1981 and historically has been manned by special-operations veterans. Former Delta Force operators, in particular, have been key to developing the unit’s training curriculum and standard operating procedures.

There are about 400 contractors divided into seven SRTs that cover the department’s nuclear sites.

Special Operations Group (CIA)

SOG is the tactical arm of the CIA.

Divided into three branches (Ground, Air, Maritime), SOG conducts covert special-operations on behalf of the CIA.

Ground Branch specializes on unconventional warfare and is pretty similar to the Army’s Special Forces. Air Branch operates a fleet of aircraft in support of CIA operations. Maritime Branch operates ships and vessels and conducts maritime special-operations for the agency.

SOG is mostly composed of former special-operations troops, with Delta Force well represented in its ranks.

SOG is part of the Special Activities Center, which also includes the Covert Influence Group (CIG) that conducts psychological operations.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make restaurants a healthy part of your meal plan

Whether it’s dinner from your neighborhood carry out or going to lunch with friends, eating out is a part of everyone’s life. Having diabetes can make this tough, but with planning and thoughtful choices, you can enjoy a variety of healthy foods away from home. Use these tips to enjoy eating out while still sticking to your routine of eating healthy for diabetes.


Plan ahead

While restaurants are in the business of selling food, and not necessarily helping you stick to your diet, many offer healthy food choices and alternatives. You can plan what you want to order ahead of time by looking at menus online. It’s also easier to make healthy food choices if you’re not starving, so before a party or dinner, enjoy a diabetic-friendly snack. If you are going to a friend’s house, ask if you can bring food to share. That way you’ll know there are healthy options to eat.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Know the amount of carbs you should have in each meal.

If you have diabetes, it’s important to know the number of carbohydrates you should have in each meal. Carbs can raise blood sugar levels more than other nutrients, so it’s best to monitor them. Try limiting cheese, bacon bits, croutons, and other add-ons that can increase a meal’s calories, fat, and carbohydrates.

Mind your portions

Many restaurants pack their plates with portions that are often twice the recommended serving size. You can avoid the temptation to overeat by:

  • Choosing a half-size or lunch portion.
  • Sharing meals with a dining partner.
  • Requesting a take-home container to put half your food in before you start to eat your meal.
  • Making a meal out of a salad or soup and an appetizer.
The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Fresh fruit and vegetables promote healthy eating habits.

When at parties, choose the smallest plate available or a napkin to keep from overeating. A good rule of thumb is to fill half of your plate with vegetables or salad. Then split the other half of your plate between protein and non-starchy carbohydrates. If you have a sweet tooth, fruit is a good choice for dessert. Since you likely don’t have a measuring cup or food scale handy, you can estimate serving sizes based on your hands:

  • 2 to 3 ounces is about the size of your palm
  • ½ cup is about the size of your cupped hand
  • 1 cup is about the size of your full fist

Healthier alternatives

As you decide what foods to add to your meal, consider how they are prepared. Rather than ordering something breaded or fried, ask that your food be:

  • Broiled
  • Roasted
  • Grilled
  • Steamed
The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Don’t settle for the side dish that comes with your meal. Instead of fries, choose a side salad with fat-free or low-fat salad dressing, or extra vegetables. You can also control how much fat you eat by requesting butter, sour cream, gravy and sauces on the side. If you choose a sandwich, swap house dressings or creamy sauces for ketchup, mustard, horseradish or fresh tomato slices. Drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks is an easy way to rack up calories, so instead opt for water or unsweetened ice tea. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one serving and choose options with fewer calories and carbs, such as:

  • Light beer
  • Dry wines
  • Mixed drinks made with sugar-free mixers, such as diet soda, diet tonic, club soda or seltzer

Add it to your food journal

Keeping a food journal is a great way to stay aware of what you eat each day. Diabetic veterans can track both their meals and vitals with My HealtheVet’s Track Health feature. Before your meal, take and enter your blood sugar level. Once you are done eating, record the foods you chose. This will help you – and your doctor – understand your eating habits and create a diabetes meal plan that meets your lifestyle and health needs.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New website gives military exclusive travel discounts

Military personnel, retirees and their family members now have access to an exclusive discount travel website managed by Priceline.

American Forces Travel is a full-service travel booking site, offering hotel, flight, car rental and cruise deals as well as bundled or package deals that Priceline spokesman Devon Nagle said can save travelers an average of $240 per person.

The site, which is available to active-duty military, National Guard members, Reservists, retirees and family members, as well as 100 percent disabled veterans and civilian Defense Department employees, officially went live Jan. 22, 2019, after having been beta-tested on several military bases.


According to Nagle, the site offers discounts that have been negotiated specifically for military personnel, including hotel deals up to 60 percent off and cruise deals up to 80 percent off. Roughly 1.2 million hotels can be booked through the site, as well as the most popular flight and car rental brands, he said.

Brett Keller, Priceline chief executive officer, said that the company was thrilled to be selected by the DoD to “bring the site to life.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

(Flickr photo by LoadedAaron)

“American Forces Travel was developed for a simple reason. The people who support the United States of America through military service have earned access to the world’s most exclusive travel deals,” Keller said.

A recent review of the site by Military.com found hotel deals in San Diego ranging from to off prices found on non-military travel websites, and car rental discounts ranging from to off per day for a minivan, SUV or convertible.

A non-stop round trip airline fare from the Washington, D.C., area to San Diego for a weekend in February 2019 was available for 3 on Alaska Airlines, while the same flight was advertised as 4 other travel websites. Still, non-stop flights for the same weekend on United could be purchased for significantly less on another website — between 0 to 0 less.

Advantages to booking air travel through American Forces Travel include reduced fees for reservation changes and all flights being cancellable within 24 hours, according to the site. For cars, benefits include free cancellation on post-paid cars and larger discounts for prepaid rates.

Each AmericanForcesTravel.com transaction also will generate a commission that will go to the military services’ Morale, Welfare and Recreation and quality-of-life programs.

Nagle described the new site as a “labor of love for Priceline.”

“Members of the military are a unique community and deserve the opportunity to access great deals when they take vacations. With American Forces Travel, they can search for deals 24 hours a day,” he said.

Users can access the site by inputting their last name, date of birth and last four digits of their Social Security number when prompted. The DoD then verifies the information, and future travelers are ready to shop.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

(Flickr photo by m01229)

Nagle said Priceline does not capture or retain any of the verification data that is provided.

In addition to Defense Department service members, National Guard and Reserve and civilian employees, Coast Guard men and women and their families also can use the site.

Military members have had access to travel deals through base ticket and tour offices, as well as lodging through the Armed Forces Vacation Club, a no-fee membership group that offers week-long stays at resorts, apartments, condominiums and homes — usually timeshare destinations — in more than 100 countries on a space-available basis for about 0 a week.

Armed Forces Vacation Club is managed by Wyndham Worldwide.

According to Nagle, Priceline was chosen to run AmericanForcesTravel.com by a competitive bidding process. Company executives said they — and the Defense Department — see their website as a way to thank the military community.

“Until now, leisure travel was typically handled by travel agents on military bases. The DoD chose to create a new online platform that was modern, fast and widely accessible and to populate the site with the broadest and deepest collection of travel deals,” the Priceline release states.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans will soon hold models of their own hearts pre-surgery

Veterans with heart conditions will soon be able to hold a 3D model of their own heart while talking with their doctor about possible treatments, thanks to 3D printing.

VA Puget Sound Health Care System doctors, researchers and engineers are working with their counterparts at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine to use 3D printing to diagnose and treat complex heart conditions.


Hold your heart in your hands

“Imagine the power of holding a life-sized 3D model of your own heart in your hands while your cardiologist discusses your treatment plan and walks you through your upcoming procedure step by step. This is the reality that we want for all of our patients,” said VA Puget Sound radiologist Dr. Beth Ripley.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

3D models of aortic valve helps doctor plan surgery.

Currently, without a 3D model, a surgeon creates a plan for surgery by looking through hundreds or thousands of CT or MRI scans, putting together a rough picture of the actual organ from a series of flat images. To create a model, a radiologist uses those same images to make a 3D blueprint, which is then sent to a 3D printer. The result is an almost perfect copy of the patient’s body part.

Reducing costs and shortening surgery times

Three-dimensional heart models will come in handy for a procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, in which the surgeon replaces a narrow heart valve that no longer opens properly.

“Beyond improving our understanding of a patient’s anatomy, it allows us to know which catheters and replacement valves will fit, and how best to approach the particular structure,” said UW research scientist Dmitry Levin. In turn, he said, that knowledge helps reduce the cost of devices and shorten the length of surgery.

3D frontier

VA Puget Sound doctors already print 3D kidney models that they use for planning kidney surgery. They also print 3D foot orthotics that prevent amputations for veterans with type 2 diabetes.

The VA-UW team expects the partnership to result in new techniques and treatment approaches. As a result, it could eventually help heart patients worldwide.

Ripley said the next frontier is 3D printing of living tissue. “In the near future, we will be able to make living bone,” complete with blood vessels, she said.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Navy SEAL will help you survive anything, anywhere

Retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson spent decades serving American interests across the globe, doing dangerous work in dangerous places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, he runs a company that helps people prepare for a crisis, and he wants to share some of his experience with you.


Retired Navy SEAL Explains How to Prepare for Dangerous Situations | Tradecraft | WIRED

www.youtube.com

The broad message of his video is something that will sound familiar to any veteran: plan and mentally rehearse.

Look, no one can be truly “prepared” during their first active shooter situation, their first kidnapping, or massive natural disaster. Most of us will never face one of those situations (thankfully). But, precisely because those types of events are so rare, most of us have never given much thought to how to survive something like that.

And that can be a mistake. The second worst time to figure out how to survive in a crisis is during a crisis. The only worse moment is to figure it out after it’s too late to survive.

The best time is whenever you’re calm, when you have a few minutes. Since you’re reading an internet article, we’re going to assume that’s right now.

This is the best time because you can apply your rational, calm mind to the planning, so you make the best decisions possible.

And once you’re in planning mode, Emerson has all sorts of tips to help you out. For instance, always figure out your exits. For anywhere you go often, like work and home, plan out escape routes, know the dead ends where you could be trapped, figure out what areas provide cover from attackers or high winds. For anywhere else, mark the doors and windows when you enter.

And be sure to have at least one or two exit options that aren’t the obvious one, if possible.

He also has tips to specific situations, like trusting your eyes instead of ears when looking for a shooter or heading to the stairs during a fire in order to get fresh air. You can jump from about three stories and likely survive in a crisis if you have to. And try to avoid going above the 12th floor in a building if possible, because rescue trucks can usually only extend ladders 120 feet.

Check out the video above to get a lot more tips from Emerson.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier stood watch for 23 hours during a hurricane

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been guarded for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, nonstop since July 2, 1937. The Tomb Sentinels that protect the site are the best of the best the U.S. Army has to offer and nothing short of Armageddon is going to break that discipline. By the time Hurricane Sandy hit the D.C. area in 2012, it was a “superstorm,” expected to kill more people and cause more damage than any hurricane since Katrina in 2005.

That didn’t faze Sgt. Shane Vincent one bit.


This is what we all volunteer to do,” Staff Sgt. Michael Buelna, the commander of the first relief, told ABC News. “For us we don’t really think anything of it, it’s what we do.”

When the Sentinels due to stand watch during that timeframe found out they could be without power and food for an extended period of time, they brought extra. And they also brought MREs. They were as prepared as anyone else for a hurricane. The difference was they would be standing in it for their shifts and shift changes.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military
Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Regiment continue to stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, despite the worsening weather conditions surrounding Hurricane Sandy.
(U.S. Army)

Like other government sites, the cemetery was closed by order of the Federal government. There would be no visitors, no crowds, no curious onlookers to catch the changing of the guards. The Tomb Sentinels would still guard the tomb, exposed to the elements, with their M-14 rifles – the unknown soldier would not be left alone. There were only a few slight differences in their routine.

Instead of Army dress blues, the six Tomb Sentinels on duty wore wet-weather ACUs. Instead of “walking the mat” for 21 paces back and forth, they would operate from “The Box,” a small guard shack made of green cloth. They also wouldn’t have to be at attention for the duration. It was more than ceremonial guard duty, the men of the 3rd Infantry Regiment would have to stay vigilant during the storm.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military
Sentinels from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) continue to stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 22, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Cody Torkelson)

For Sgt. Vincent, it presented an opportunity. He’d told his fellow Tomb Sentinels that if the time ever came, he would volunteer for a full day of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – something that had never been done before.

I stayed out there for the entire shift,” said Vincent. “I was the one that was out there, others would come and show love and spend time with me out there.”

As for Sandy, Sgt. Vincent, he was unimpressed, saying it was a basic storm, the worst of it only came when the winds picked up and even then, he enjoyed watching the rain fall sideways. He even walked the mat a few times.

That’s the Old Guard for you.

MIGHTY CULTURE

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

The latest survey of active-duty and reserve-component service members’ spouses shows the spouses are, by and large, happy with the military lifestyles they lead.

Defense Department officials briefed reporters at the Pentagon Feb. 21, 2019, on the results of the surveys, which were conducted in 2017.

The survey of active-duty spouses and a similar survey of National Guard and Reserve spouses showed similar results, they said. Among active-duty spouses, 60 percent claimed they are “satisfied” with their military way of life. Among the reserve components, 61 percent were satisfied.


While both surveys showed a slight decrease from the last previous survey, conducted in 2015, the 2015 and 2017 results both were higher than results from the same question on the 2008 survey, officials noted.

James N. Stewart, performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told reporters the surveys cover areas including satisfaction with military life, spouse employment, deployment and reintegration. Questions also touch on issues such as finances and the impact of deployments on families and military children.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

A soldier from the Florida Army National Guard’s 806th Military Police Company greets his family.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)

Survey results inform decisions

Results are used to inform decisions about how the U.S. military provides services to families, he said.

“These surveys allow us to identify areas of concern and understand what’s working, and more importantly, what’s not,” Stewart said. “This information also helps our internal leaders evaluate programs, address issues and gaps, and determine the need for new services.”

Paul Rosenfeld, the director for DOD’s Center for Retention and Readiness, said positive results of the surveys included general spouse support for military members continuing to serve. Among reserve component spouses, for instance, 81 percent support continued service for their spouse.

Regarding financial matters, 71 percent of active-duty spouses report being comfortable with their financial situation, while 68 percent of reserve-component spouses say the same thing.

Of concern, Rosenfeld said, is that among active-duty spouses, 61 percent support continued military service for their spouse — that’s a drop from 68 percent in 2012. “Spouse support for service members staying on duty predicts actual member retention,” Rosenfeld said.

Other points of concern revealed by the surveys are high levels of “loneliness” reported by spouses when military members are deployed and unemployment rates for active-duty military spouses. Among active-duty spouses, Rosenfeld said, unemployment sits at 24 percent. Among the spouses of junior enlisted members in the E-1 through E-4 pay grades, he said, that number sits at 29 percent.

It’s all about the kids

When it comes to military spouses, Rosenfeld said, family is most important, and children top the list.

“Child care continues to be a key need for active-duty families,” he said, adding that 42 percent of active-duty spouses with children under age 6 report regularly using child care. It’s 63 percent for spouses who are employed.

Carolyn S. Stevens, director of DOD’s Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, said some 40 percent of military members have children. Of those children, she said, about 38 percent are under the age of 6.

Past survey results showed that availability of child care — in particular, hours of operation — had been an issue for military families, Stevens said. Where hours of operation for child care may have affected service members’ ability to do their mission, hours were expanded, she added.

Subsequent survey results show that now, among those who don’t make use of child care on installations, only 2 percent say it’s due to hours of operation, she said.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Sinead Politz kisses her daughter, Lorelai, at the return of Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Politz.

“We believe, then, that those responses are a confirmation that we’ve listened to a concern, that we’ve responded to that concern, and that in fact we’ve hit the mark,” she said.

Also of concern when it comes to child care is cost and availability. About 45 percent of respondents on the survey say cost of child care is a problem for military families, Stevens said. She noted that in some situations, appropriated funds can be used to lower the cost of child care for families who use installation child care. And for some families, she said, fee assistance programs can be used to lower costs for those who use community-based child care.

Still, Stevens acknowledged, that’s not possible for every family who needs it, and more work needs to be done. “We are unable to provide fee assistance to all of our families, and we continue to see this as an issue that requires more attention and focus as we try to find solutions for families,” she said.

Next survey: 2019

For the 2017 survey, about 45,000 active-duty spouses were asked to participate, and about 17 percent of those responded. Among reserve-component spouses, 55,000 were invited to participate, with a response rate of 18 percent.

Invitations to participate in the 2019 survey went out to reserve component spouses in January 2019. An invitation will be sent to active-duty spouses in May 2019.

A.T. Johnston, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said the results from the 2017 survey, and the now ongoing 2019 survey, will continue to be used to improve quality of life for military families.

“The research information we receive guides me and my team to ensure we provide the tools, information and services that military families need to be successful, fulfilled, and able to manage the challenges they may encounter during military service,” Johnston said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate generals?

With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?

I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.


I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.

We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.

In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.

I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.

I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.

The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).

I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines, Japan Self-Defense Force, and US Armed Forces united to conduct an amphibious landing exercise at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim during Exercise KAMANDAG 3 on Oct. 12, 2019.

The ship-to-shore maneuver, which was the culminating event of two weeks of combined training focused on assault amphibious vehicle interoperability, marked the first time the AFP conducted a multilateral amphibious landing with its own AAVs.

The drill’s success validated the multinational forces’ ability to conduct complex, synchronized amphibious operations, and it reaffirmed the partnerships between the Philippines, Japan and the United States.


The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

US Marine amphibious assault vehicles in an amphibious exercise during KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bragg)

“It’s a major challenge taking three different elements with different backgrounds and bringing them together to execute one goal,” said Philippine Marine Sgt. Roderick Moreno, an assistant team leader with 61st Marine Company, Force Reconnaissance Group.

“It was definitely a learning experience, but every year we participate in KAMANDAG, we get more in tune with our allies.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

US Marine amphibious assault vehicles participate in an amphibious exercise during KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bragg)

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

US Marine amphibious assault vehicles approach shore during an amphibious exercise as part of KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, October 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)

“Today was about effectively coordinating with our allies from the Philippines and Japan,” said US Marine 1st Lt. Malcolm Dunlop, an AAV platoon commander with 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.

“AAVs representing each country maneuvered simultaneously to conduct a movement up the beach. It’s crucial that we know how to do things side by side, so that in the face of serious military or humanitarian crises, we can work together to overcome the challenges that face us.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

US Marines, Philippine marines, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and amphibious assault vehicles ashore after an amphibious exercise as part of KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)

US forces have been partnering with the Philippines and Japan for many years, working together in many areas to uphold our shared goals of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Training efforts between the AFP, JSDF, and US Armed Forces ensure that the combined militaries remain ready to rapidly respond to crises across the full range of military operations, from conflict to natural disasters.

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US Marine Lance Cpl. Stephen Weldon scans his surroundings during an amphibious exercise as part of exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)

“Although the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force normally participates in KAMANDAG, this was my team’s first time working with the Filipinos and the Americans together, and it went well,” said Japanese Soldier Sgt. 1st Class Itaru Hirao, an AAV crewman with the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, ARD Training Unit.

KAMANDAG 3 is a Philippine-led, bilateral exercise with participation from Japan. KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Manirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of the Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the US and Philippine militaries.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out photos of Marines practicing air assaults

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California — In a magnificent display of combat power, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) demonstrated its ability to lift a regiment of Marines and their equipment over long distances in a very short period of time in Southern California, Dec. 10, 2019.

Muddy and exhausted with dark clouds looming, the Marines trekked across a rain-soaked field, their footprints embedding into the mud with every weighted step. They marched toward the distant sound of rotor blades.


US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions and MV-22B Ospreys with 3rd MAW waited on the horizon, ready to fulfill their role and extract the warriors following a training event that began with inserting Marines from 1st Marine Division.

Overhead, two UH-1Y Venoms secured an unseen 3-dimensional perimeter, ready to provide support if needed. This is what a regimental air assault looks like.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Four US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions take off during exercise Steel Knight at El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)

“The regimental air assault is part of Steel Knight 20, which is a 1st Marine Division exercise,” explained US Marine Corps Col. William J. Bartolomea, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd MAW.

“But of course, as Marines and as Marine Pilots, we are always supporting our brothers and sisters on the ground. We’re involved because the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is better when all of its elements are put together.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Helicopter Support Team Marines prepare an M777 Howitzer for external lift during exercise Steel Knight in El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)

The regimental air assault used a variety of 3rd MAW Marines and machines and integrated each of their capabilities into an adaptable aviation maneuver, all working in support of the ground combat element.

“I think more than anything else, it provides versatility and flexibility,” said Bartolomea. “The air assault portion provides the ground element the ability to maneuver in three dimensions and bypass enemy strong points to get at enemy weak points. The flexibility and the range of fire power that 3rd MAW and MAG 39 brings in support of 1st Marine Division is critical to make sure they can achieve their objectives.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

US Marines load onto an MV-22B Osprey for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight at Camp Pendleton, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)

The regimental air assault is one of the many exercises 3rd MAW performs in order to provide realistic and relevant training in support of ground operations.

“Training like this is vital to individual and unit readiness,” said Capt. Valerie Smith, a pilot with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465, MAG-16. “Integrating aviation in the same manner that it would be used in a MAGTF gives the Marines the training they need to remain aggressive, prepared and focused on operational excellence.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

US Marines prepare for a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel during exercise Steel Knight in El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.

(Photo by US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Four MV-22B Ospreys arrive for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight on Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)

“At the end of the day,” said Bartolomea, “this combined effort puts our enemies in a dilemma that gets our ground combat element to the objective they need, giving us a lethal edge on the battle field.”

The Super Stallions and Ospreys lifted off from the rain-soaked field, their precise and graceful movements a visible testament to the rigorous training required of aircrews.

The Marines, loaded in the fuselage, looked back on the landing zone as gusts from the rotors blew away all traces of them ever being there save for the muddied footprints they left behind as a reminder of their presence and the lethal capabilities of the force that moved them.

Air assaults of this magnitude are and will continue to be a vital part of the 3rd MAW’s preparation as they train and focus on naval integration and ship-to-shore transport, connecting the naval force and its warriors. The regimental air assault is but one example of how 3rd MAW supports the Navy-Marine Corps warfighting team.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’

September 11, 2001 means different things for different Americans. For some, the events of that date will forever be seared in their memories. For others, they were too young to know what was going on, yet they sensed something big had happened. For a younger generation, 9/11 is history. They read about it in textbooks that are absent the feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress that plagued so many Americans on that morning and the days following.

But, it’s an important date. It’s a date that represents sacrifice. Many people died, putting the lives of others before theirs. It’s a date that represents unity. Americans came together to offer up support to the families of the fallen. It also represents mistakes. Following the events of 9/11, Muslims and Middle-Eastern Americans had to weather the racial blowback that came from 19 men flying planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.


What’s important is that we remember. And that our kids know what happened that day, so the sacrifices, the story of Americans coming together, as well as the mistakes we made are not forgotten. And a great way to share memories is through stories. In her debut middle-school novel, Caroline Brooks DuBois gives us The Places We Sleep. It’s a story about a young girl navigating a new school (because her dad is in the Army) during the events of September 11, 2001. I recently interviewed Caroline to learn more about her book.

WATM: This novel touches on so many different themes: 9/11, racism, being a military kid, being a middle schooler, and being a young girl in middle school. Could you talk a little bit about the story you tell in The Places We Sleep?

Caroline: With Abbey, I attempted to create a middle school character who is as multifaceted as the pre-teens and teens I know and teach (and adore). Middle schoolers currently are living through very complex times, yet they are still concerned about their complexion, their hair, what to wear, who said what to whom, getting embarrassed in front of their peers, and so much more. In the story, Abbey navigates challenging world events along with the struggles of middle school and adolescence. Currently, teens and children are facing their own difficult world events, so I hope readers will see how Abbey perseveres and strives to be a good friend, to be kind, and to express empathy and tolerance to others.

Although I did not grow up in a military family, both of my grandfathers served in the military, as well as both of my brothers, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. In the years that followed 9/11, my brothers and my brother-in-law were all called into active duty and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. These events were the seed for Abbey’s story. I knew I wanted to write about how world events have rippling effects on individuals and families in unexpected ways. But I also wanted to tell a story about a girl with whom readers could relate. Abbey’s story is about being a military child, but it’s also about identity, loss and grief, creating art in the face of tragedy, and friendship.

WATM: Who should pick this book up? Is this a book a parent could read with their middle schooler to talk about 9/11?

Caroline: Middle grade students I’ve taught have had only a fuzzy understanding of the events of 9/11 and are curious and want to know more. There are several great books for young readers on 9/11 that I’ve incorporated into my teaching over the years, as I’ve found reading stories offers an opening to difficult subjects. I hope The Places We Sleep will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy.

Although the story is written for middle-school age kids, adults have told me the story resonates with them as well. It allows readers to visit, or revisit, 9/11 in the safe space of a story. The current national trauma of the Coronavirus pandemic may have a similar traumatic impact on youth and adults. Reading with a child about a dark time in our history is one way to open up conversation on important topics such as resiliency, strength, attitude, and hope. My hope is that the book will leave readers with a memorable story about a girl who may not be all that different from themselves. If they see Abbey journey through difficult times and come out stronger, they too may be inspired and optimistic in the face of their generation’s own difficult times.

WATM: You chose to tell the story in Verse. Could you talk about that decision and why you think it will appeal to readers?

Caroline: As a teacher and parent, I’ve noticed the appeal of shorter and/or alternative forms of story-telling (e.g., books in verse, flash fiction, graphic novels, epistolaries, etc.), undoubtedly influenced by technology and reading online. Even though I have a love for long form and traditional novels, I’ve noticed how books in verse can create more white space between scenes as well as playful or dramatic visual messages with syntax, punctuation, and form, which can motivate or hook adolescent readers.

Abbey’s story came to me naturally in poetry, perhaps as a lyrical way to process 9/11 and my brothers’ deployment, but also likely because I’d recently completed my MFA in poetry. The snapshots or scenes that poems allow you to write provided me with the perfect medium for Abbey’s story.

Books in verse make great shared read-aloud opportunities. You’re never too old to be read to or to enjoy reading aloud to someone else. Where you may not have time to read an entire chapter with someone, there’s always time for a poem or two.

WATM: On top of all the other crazy events in the book, Abbey also deals with the struggle of puberty. A lot of middle school books gloss over this. But, it’s a main part of Abbey’s story. Could you discuss why you chose to address it in your novel?

Caroline: When I was a pre-teen, one of the few sources for making sense of puberty was Judy Blume novels, which we passed covertly between friends (Think: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t). Changing bodies were cringe-worthy and carried heavy feelings of shame. Not enough has changed since then. I should know: I taught 7th grade for three years recently, and I saw it when girls cornered me at my desk to signal with their eyes they needed an emergency bathroom break, or when boys shut down in class conversations, avoiding branding themselves as not part of the pack. Novels that talk about puberty openly and other difficult issues are lifesavers for youth. Now more than ever, young readers need to be able to see themselves in books. Sometimes it takes a character in a book to show a reader they are not alone. Forewarning, my second reason is a little cerebral and a slight spoiler regarding Abbey’s character arc. Through her journey, Abbey makes a connection between coming of age (a.k.a, getting her period) and possessing the power to create life. She contemplates how the terrorists on 9/11 chose to destroy life. Coming of age brings with it many choices about how to act, and sometimes acting with integrity and authenticity means not following your peers—and that’s a true test of character.

WATM: Outside of classical literature, this is the first time I’ve ever read a novel in verse. Since you got your MFA in poetry, what are some of the must-reads in this genre?

Caroline: In this space, I’ll mainly mention notable middle-grade novelists who write in verse, but there are also numerous young adult novelists who write in verse as well. Disclaimer: These are a few of my own personal favorites and there are many others not included: Kwame Alexander (sports-themed Crossover and Booked), Sharon Creech (Love that Dog and Hate that Cat), Thanhha Lai (Inside Out Back Again), and Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming). Additionally, Ellen Hopkins is a must-read author of books in verse for young adults; she tackles challenging topics such as drug addiction and mental illness in her unapologetic, in-your-face verse. One of my all-time favorite novels in verse is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, which tells the story of 14-year-old Billie Jo, who struggles to help her family survive the Dust Bowl.

The Places We Sleep is available on Amazon.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airmen at Nellis AFB will get cargo shorts for flightline work

The Air Force has just discovered how hot it can be to work in the desert, especially if your work zone requires long periods of time in direct sunlight. This somehow managed to elude Pentagon officials for the past 18 years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention all the other Middle East locales which include Air Force flightlines. Now airmen working the line at Nellis AFB, Nev. will get to wear what is no doubt the latest in cargo short technology.


On Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base, the heat can get deadly, often exceeding temperatures of more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For the airmen who are working aircraft maintenance for long hours in what is often direct sunlight, the heat risk can be even more punishing. The wait for ways to beat the heat is now over – the Air Force will issue its maintainers new cargo shorts for wear during these duties.

The look was released on the popular Air Force Facebook Page Air Force amn/nco/snco in the early days of July 2019, and it did not take long for airmen to weigh in on the new look.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

The first response from airmen included a prayer to “Enlisted Jesus” (also known as Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright), for hearing their prayers and responding once again. They also predicted new Air Force uniform instructions regarding leg tattoos and shaved legs, extending the program to USAF Security Forces bike patrols, and how hot it’s going to be when someone sits on a piece of metal equipment that has been sitting in the sun itself all day long.

They also mention how the Air Force will no longer get away with skipping “Leg Day” at the gym.

MIGHTY CULTURE

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

When you work at VA, you’re a part of a major piece of America’s history. Our roots date back to the Civil War, when the first hospitals and homes for disabled former soldiers began to open.

Today, across the nation, we provide top-notch care to 9 million Veterans in our medical centers. Many of these have long and unique backstories themselves. Whether you’re considering a career at VA or have worked here for years, you might be surprised by some of these 20 little-known facts about VA medical centers.


  1. The Togus VA Medical Center in Maine is the oldest facility for Veterans in the nation.
  2. The Bob Stump VA Medical Center in Prescott, Ariz., is located at the site of Fort Whipple, a base for the U.S. cavalry after the Civil War. It later became headquarters for the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War.
  3. The Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System began on an abandoned recreation spot known as Pastime Park, which at various times had been a skating rink, bowling alley, dance hall and a notorious roadside tavern.
  4. Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif., is named for the only Holocaust survivor to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
  5. The incredible views of the Smoky Mountains at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in Mountain Home, Tenn., (pictured at the top) were intended to benefit the recovery of the tuberculosis patients who were first treated there.
  6. Even before its official dedication, the VA San Diego Healthcare System jumped into action to provide emergency care following a 1972 California earthquake.
  7. The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic — which offers disabled Veterans the chance to ski, rock climb, scuba dive and more — is held each year at the VAMC in Grand Junction, Colo.
  8. When the original Wilmington VA Medical Center opened on Aug. 26, 1946, 77% of the staff were Veterans.
  9. The first VA hospital in Miami, Fla., was actually a former hotel.
  10. At the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital and Clinics, Veterans participated in weekly taste tests to set the menu at the American Heroes Café.
  11. The Boise VA Medical Center occupies most of the former Fort Boise. Its sandstone buildings are some of the oldest in the city.
  12. The site of the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., was once a former board track racecourse. Popular in the early 1900s, board track racing was a motorsport race on an oval racecourse with a surface of wooden planks.
  13. The Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Chicago, Ill., is the first partnership between VA and the Department of Defense, integrating Veteran and Naval health care into one facility. It’s also named for Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, played by Tom Hanks in the popular movie.
  14. Arrowheads and relics from Susquehannock tribe can still be found on Perry Point Peninsula, home of the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland.
  15. The Battle Creek VA Medical Center was initially called Veterans Hospital Number 100 because it was the 100th VA hospital built in the United States.
  16. Henry Ford attended the groundbreaking of the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit.
  17. At the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, three large atria in the facility allow for a window with natural light in each patient’s room.
  18. From the 1920s to 1965, the Cloud VA Medical Center’s farm served as both occupational therapy and a source of local crops and milk for the hospital.
  19. The VA Medical Center in St. Louis, Mo., occupies the Jefferson Barracks, the oldest operating U.S. military installation west of the Mississippi River.
  20. The Montana VA Health Care System serves one of the highest per-capita Veteran populations in the U.S. — almost 10% of the state’s population has served!

Work at VA

See a VA medical center that piques your interest? Check if they’re hiring!

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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